‘He may be a rotten Marxist, but he's the best raconteur the British Left has seen since the war'. So spoke a sectarian friend of mine some fifteen years ago about Tariq Ali. I agree with both propositions. I will join sectarian battle with Tariq before this is over (where better than in the Literary Review, none of whose readers agree with either of us) but it is worth saying right away that there is no time of the day or night when any sane person would be sorry to see Tariq Ali and to talk with him. He laughs most of the time, especially at himself and his comrades. He is the most marvellous and melodious public speaker, with a deep love and care for the English language. What he is like speaking in his first language is beyond imagining.
It is commonly said among the comrades that Tariq doesn't write anything like as well as he speaks, and I have always shared that view. This book starts with a dreadfully illiterate first sentence which manages to combine imprecision with cliché. But it recovers very quickly. When friends start to